In this blog I will share information about Rome markets and provide a little bit of information with regard to taking a food tour in the eternal city. This represents Section Six of the Rome as a Pre or Post Cruise Stop
Before I begin, and as a reminder to my readers, many cruises begin and end in Rome and this city is also a common stop on both eastern and western Mediterranean cruises. Cruise ships do not dock in Rome, they dock in the port of Civitavecchia so if you are looking for information on the actual port city, see my blog posting Section Eight, posting #10 of the Rome as a Pre or Post Cruise Stop series which will cover Civitavecchia.
My Rome blog entries are contained under the following headings and if you are looking for information on any of the subjects listed, go to the posting section for the specific information that will best serve your needs:
1. History of Rome (2 blog entries)
2. Transportation to and from the airport
3. Transportation to and from the port
4. Getting around the city
5. Places to see (2 blog entries)
6. Rome Markets / Food Tours
7. Hop on Hop off buses
8. Civitavecchia as a port stop for Rome
9. Rome / Italy Fun Facts / Historic Churches
Before speaking about the markets, I am going to provide you with a few general warnings. When going to markets in Rome, beware of pickpockets. I have seen them at work in most of the markets, but they are especially active at the markets that cater to large numbers of tourists.
Take your own little shopping bag to carry goods. You can easily buy very small folding bags that will fit in a pocket or purse and weigh very little. When opened up, these bags are large, strong and will allow you to carry a number of items. They are not easily cut/slashed by someone who wants to create a hole for purchases to be surreptitiously removed (or to allow for items to fall out).
Be wary of scams. We have seen versions of the old "shell game" being played at the markets. Here is a brief explanation of how the game is played and how it draws unsuspecting people in. Basically, this is a variation on find the item under the cup, or which card is the target card in a selection of three cards face down (the photos in the photo gallery have examples of these scams). The victim is presented with three cups upside down and the dealer shows that he/she is putting something under one cup and then moves the cups around. You have to point to the cup you think the item is under. If you guess correctly, you win. The same for three cards face down. You are shown a card (say an ace for example). The card is placed face down and then the three face down cards are moved about and you have to point out which card is the one that is the ace.
The scammers often have fake participants (aka shills), playing to convince bystanders of the legitimacy of the game. They may also allow a new player to win a few times while the stakes are low. Suffice to say that you should avoid participating in the game or even watching the games being played as that is one of the places pick pockets will be actively working.
Never set your bags down on the ground or on a market table while examining items. You may soon find the bag has gone missing.
I provide these warnings not to scare people from visiting the markets, but to make people aware that they should exercise caution and good judgement.
Now onto the markets:
Piazza Campo de’ Fiori
Located on the east side of the Tiber river, this is a mixed market offering both tourist and local items such as fruits and vegetables for sale. I have shopped in the market a number of times and I tend to visit it on my trips to Rome. When escorting friends who are visiting Rome for the first time, I generally take them to this market as the location is interesting, easy to get to and the market offers up a fairly diverse market experience. You will find a little of everything for sale and the atmosphere is entertaining. Examples of items other than fruits and vegetables are purses, jewelry, scarves, hats, other assorted clothing and souvenirs.
Within fairly easy walking distance south west of this market is the Piazza Farnese which is a nice little Renaissance square for those who enjoy viewing a little architectural history.
Mercatino di Ponte Milvio (aka: Milvian Bridge Market)
This market located at the Ponte Milvio, is only open twice a month so check before heading there (every second Sunday). You can find some lovely antiques, impressive reproduction pieces and some knock off items. If you know your antiques, you can find some deals there. Avoid any electrical or overly large items as the price may be great but the shipping can be quite costly. Check the paintings closely and always keep an eye pealed for repaired items as the value of the art work may be diminished due to subtle repairs.
Located not too far from the Vatican on the west side of the Tiber, this is a great little fresh produce market. We have bought some amazing cheeses here and some fantastic spices that we were able to bring home.
Mercato di Via Sannio
Located at Via Sannio directly south of the termini station and close to the San Giovanni metro station on the east side of the Tiber, this is a busy market with loads of clothing and other assorted tourist items. On one trip, my husband and I bought jackets at very good prices and other assorted souvenirs. I have also bought purses, scarves, sweaters and jeans. My husband has bought belts and shoes, all at reasonable prices following some spirited negotiations.
There a number of markets all over Rome and I have only listed those I have visited. Consequently, my list is neither exhaustive or an endorsement of any specific market, just a recounting of those I’m most familiar with and have experienced. You will also find little stalls or tables set up in certain areas (particularly on weekends), and although not officially deemed “markets”, they offer "mini" market experiences. I have found three of these types of markets in the streets around the termini but I know that there are others that may consist of only 10 or 20 tables that are simply set up on the weekends.
The first food tour I took in Rome was at the urging of a friend who told me that the food tours in Rome were the best in the world. I was an unenthusiastic participant, thinking that we were going to be fed average food at restaurants catering to the uninformed tourist. I thought it would be a waste of time and money. For the most part I found that I was half right.
If I had been visiting Rome for the first time, and encountering the local foods as new tasting experiences, I would have loved the food tour. But having been to Rome many times and travelled the length and breadth of Italy, I had tried all regional culinary delights many times and found nothing amazing on the food tour. The food was varied in taste and went from mediocre to outstandingly delicious. The establishments were, for the most part, average in both size and appearance. Some foods were prepared quickly and were fresh while others had the appearance of being cooked in advance and just left waiting under a heat lamp for the tour group to show up. In all cases, there was plenty of food and no participant in any Rome food tour I have taken, is in danger of completing the tour in a hungry state.
The real treat of the first, and then subsequent food tours I have taken in Rome, is that they offered up more than just the food. The tours were instructional, informative and downright interesting. Not only were we treated to a history lesson on Rome and the origins of different Italian foods and wines, we were entertained.
There are a number of companies that offer food tours and some of them have stopped while covid continues to make such tours uncertain at best. I suggest you read the reviews of the food tour companies you are considering and make your decision based on those reviews.
When considering the food tour that will best suit you and any dietary restrictions you might have, ask about the type of foods you will be sampling. On one tour, we had four people who were vegetarians and one person who was a vegan diner and all five were able to try a dish at each stop.
You should also check into distances to be walked. If you have mobility issues or have problems with uneven surfaces or stairs, you need to ensure the tour you select will be suitable for any physical limitations.
This blog is designed to give you a light overview of my experiences with markets and food tours. As always with my blogs, if you have any comments or suggestions, please feel free to post them here or contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org